As the Host and Producer of Beatle Brunch, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of superior music and radio production, having spent a full half of my life behind a mixing console. So when I had the opportunity to interview Sir George Martin and his son Giles in 2006, I was almost more nervous to have my personal moment with George than I was to meet and interview Paul McCartney backstage in Tampa the year before.
But while meeting up with Sir George at the Love Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas in June of 2006 was a planned press event, happening upon him in August of 1995 while visiting Abbey Road Studios in St. John’s Wood, London could only occur with a little luck.
More on Love Las Vegas later, but first: In August of 1995 I was part of The MerseyBeatle Festival in London and Liverpool, in town to party with several hundred-thousand Beatle fans. We would end up in Liverpool via a “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey”, then spend the Bank Holiday weekend enjoying more than 200 Beatles tribute bands at legendary venues in Liverpool including The Cavern Club, but our beginnings in London were truly Fab.
The London tour included a visit to nearly every sacred Beatles’ cross street in town: The Apple Offices on Saville Row, Ringo & George’s apartment, Jane Asher’s house where Paul wrote “Yesterday”, and of course The British Museum, where the original handwritten lyrics to that song and dozen more are kept under glass, in good company, just steps from The Rosetta Stone.
But of course, no Beatle trip to London would be complete without a cross street visit to the famed Abbey Road Studios.
Our group arrived via a walking tour with the well-known Richard Porter, and immediately took the obligatory stroll across the zebra crossing, following carefully in the Fab’s footsteps, some even removing their shoes in accurate tradition.
But when we slipped through the hallowed gates of The Abbey Road Studios parking lot, we noticed a Rolls that was not rolled into its traditional parking spot, but nudged against the studio entrance steps, with no meter maid in sight posting a bill. Upon closer examination, I spotted something in the backseat, and took this snapshot through the year window, revealing a seat full of brochures hinting at something that was to come: The Beatles Anthology.
With a group gasp, someone suddenly chirped, “I’m sure George Martin’s inside working on The Anthology”. We rushed up the steps to reception, where we were politely told that George was NOT in the building. Well, the receptionist was half right, because just a few minutes later we spotted him coming down the steps and entering the driver’s side of the Rolls Royce.
He was greeted by our tour guide, the late Alistair Taylor, who beamed with pride having seen his old friend once again, clearly pleasing his tour group.
I snapped these photos of it all happening, then later, took a train to George’s Air Studios London, where I met and was warmly received by George’s secretary Shirley Burns, who graced me with her autograph, as I requested.
But my brush with George Martin doesn’t end there. Fast forward 11 years to the opening of the Love Circue du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Me and other members of the press were invited to take a backstage tour, meet the cast and even interview Sir George and his son Giles Martin, architects of the show’s multi-layered soundtrack.
The Martins couldn’t have been nicer. So humble, so kind, so welcoming. They told me stories of creating the soundtrack and even dabbled in some classic Beatle conversation for me, answering questions that were not on the list. Hearing that I was from the syndicated radio show Beatle Brunch, George seemed very concerned that I would Love LOVE when I was going to see it later that night.
That afternoon, though, an interesting photo op took place. The press (including Robin Leach), eager to see The Martins in action, asked them to pose in front of the console as if mixing the Love soundtrack. When George and Giles reminded them that the soundtrack was produced some 5200 miles away in London, they didn’t seem to care, and asked them to re-enact mixing anyway, which you can clearly see they did with a cheeky smile on their faces.
To show how human, warm and concerned George Martin was that I would Love and appreciate the show, when I met up with him at an after party at a noisy nightclub at The Mirage, he came over to me and asked what I thought of Love. I told him I thought it spectacular and amazing, and loved the mashup mixes. “I’m so glad. I was worried”, George said to me. Worried? “Did I tell you how nervous and honored I was to meet you, sir” I wish I had said to him.
We enjoyed the rest of the night. I never had the chance to meet my idol again, but my memory of George Martin lives on. The fact that such a successful and brilliant musician, producer, mentor husband and father could take the time to ask about me about my experience, is the true measure of the man who was more than the music. Thank you Sir George Martin for 50-plus years of magic memories and even more importantly, your personal charm and natural ability to be human while having made such a huge impact on the world of recorded music.
Hear Joe J’s 2006 Las Vegas interview with George and Giles, here.